Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

February 11, 2009

Composition Compromises

Filed under: Birds, comparisons, composition, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch, style — richditch @ 7:06 pm
Great-tailed Grackle awkward composition

Great-tailed Grackle awkward composition

It is always nice when a bird comes close enough for a photo on its own accord, rather than being lured to a predetermined setup by food or some other type of bait. But it can become a problem when the bird comes so close that you can’t fit it all in the frame.

This is a great time to have a quality zoom to make it easy to reframe by backing off on the focal length. Unfortunately I can’t afford the only zoom I’d like to own for bird photography: the Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 AF-S with vibration reduction. Instead, I work with a 300/2.8 and a 2x converter, making my lens effectively 600mm f/5.6. I carry a 1.4x converter with me as well, but have never been very fast at changing from the 2x to the 1.4x or no converter at all. When I do switch converters I always worry about the risk of dropping a converter or the camera body, and it takes me enough time to make the switch that the photo opportunity usually has expired.

So, when this female Great-tailed Grackle decided to feed on the mudflat right in front of me I simply kept shooting with the 300 and 2x, even though it wouldn’t fit completely in the frame. I tried to find a partial body composition that I could live with, and this is the shot I like the best of the series I took. I don’t like the missing parts here, but I did manage to get a nice profile of the head.

Taking things further in that direction, I decided to try  a massive crop that shows the head since that’s the part of most interest here anyway.

Great-tailed Grackle head crop

Great-tailed Grackle head crop

I think this head shot composition is successful, but to get it I had to crop to a meager 28% of the full frame image (i.e., this version uses only 2.8MP of the full 10MP of the D200 camera).

Keep in mind that you can’t get away with this on every shot – you’ve got to get the focus and exposure correct in the field if you expect to abuse the pixels by such a large crop. If focus is off in the first place don’t expect to “fix” it in post processing as any attempts to do so will be obvious. And if the original was underexposed and required some added exposure in raw conversion, then expect noise in the image to be excessive from the combination of exposure boost and large crop.

D200, 300/2.8 plus 2x, ISO 320, 1/320th second at f/8. Raw, converted in Adobe Camera Raw, post processed in Photoshop CS3. No Noise Reduction of any kind was applied to this image (so if your ISO 200 image routinely need NR then you are doing something wrong in your work flow).

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